Back in 2010, Greek American businessman Dean Metropoulos bought the ailing Pabst Brewing Company for $250 million. Many thought he was crazy as the American beer company had fallen on hard times, lost its brand equity and was struggling to stay in American bar coolers.
But Dean Metropoulos’ knack is turning brands around and then flipping them.
Worth $1.3 billion according to Forbes, call him the modern-day version of King Midas, whose touch in Ancient Greek mythology turned everything to gold.
Metropoulos has a track record of similar success. Over the decades he’s bought, turned around and sold struggling brands. It’s become his trademark. He is known for his savvy deal making, such as his $2.2 billion sale of Pinnacle Foods, owner of Hungry Man and Swanson frozen dinners and Vlasic pickles, among products, to Blackstone Group in 2007; and, the $2.9 billion sale of labels Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee Tuna to Con Agra in 2000.
He also bought Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Cupcakes from bankrupt Hostess Brands Inc for $410 million out of bankruptcy for $410 million, saving the iconic brands from being erased from the American psyche and supermarket shelves, alike.
The marketing campaign that was launched immediately after the purchase was praised by the industry, carrying the slogan “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever.”
Metropoulos credits his sons Evan and Darren for all of his marketing success and ability to turn brands around, getting marketing deals for Bumble Bee Tuna on the Howard Stern show and getting product placement of Gulden’s mustard, another one of the family’s food brands, in the movie “Picture Perfect” with Jennifer Aniston.
The boys also helped the champagne brand, Perrier Jouet, another Metropoulos-owned brand, become featured in Snoop Dog and Limp Bizkit concerts, their father said in numerous interviews.
“My two sons have tremendous creative ideas on how to resurrect iconic brands that have been around for a very long time but have lost their competitive appeal.”
A Russian beverage company named Oasis Beverages announced that it was acquiring the Pabst Brewing Company from Metropoulos, which owns the Pabst Blue Ribbon label and other brands like Colt 45 and Old Milwaukee.
Oasis is the biggest independent brewer in Russia, producing a variety of regional brands. It also distributes some big international brands like Heineken in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Metropoulos, the son of a Greek village farmer, came to the United States from Greece when he was nine years old.
His “build-and-buy” strategy has been a Metropoulos hallmark since he started out in the food business, joining his father-in-law’s feta cheese company, Stella Foods, in Vermont in 1981. By the time the company was sold a dozen years later, sales had ballooned to $780 million from $12 million, thanks to 15 acquisitions of mostly higher-margin makers of specialty cheeses like Gorgonzola and Parmesan.